Friday, July 13, 2007

Praying Over My Head

I love baseball. I played the game from the age of seven or eight until I turned fortyfive a few years ago -- when I finally faced up to the truth that I would never make it to the bigs. :-) Actually, I had faced up to THAT truth years before. But at about age 45, the truth faced was that continuing to play was getting both progressively futile and embarrassing and progressively painful!! I knew my days were numbered when I was forty, still playing in summer league softball, and I made a dash from first to third on a ball hit to left field -- a dash I'd always been able to make with ease; but now "dash" had to be qualified, I discovered. I discovered that fact when I was still twenty feet from third base and saw that the third baseman already had the ball! Where had my lightning speed gone? Oh -- it had stayed in the 80s, but this was the 90s. Anyway, my only hope was to attempt a diving, headfirst slide. Putting my life on the line, I went for it. As I dove for the bag, I felt something in my left shoulder pop. But not to worry, I also felt my feet fly up over my head, and one foot hit the third baseman's glove and knocked the ball loose, so I was safe at third. I stood up -- my left shoulder felt a little weird, but didn't seem hurt. I played the rest of the game and all my body parts seemed to function ok.

But, we had a double-header that night, with an hour off between games. When I started to warm up for the next game, I realized that I couldn't get my upper left arm to move over the level of my shoulder. I had torn my rotator cuff (I found out weeks later when I finally went to the doctor). It took two years to heal fully.

Now, I'm not claiming that Curt Shilling took a page out of my book with his "bloody sock" stunt, but I played that second game that night and did pretty well. Thankfully I didn't have to catch any balls over the level of my shoulder -- all grounders (I played shortstop). The adrenalin got me through, and the pain only set in later. (Advil is my BFF!)

Everyone does things at some times that we look back on and wonder how we did it. I was never a great athlete, but every now and then I could make a play that might fool someone into thinking I was (if they didn't watch too long and see me boot the next four ground balls or something). Any time that happened, I was really "playing over my head." Sorta like the Milwaukee Brewers for the first half of this season. (Watch them fade in July! Go Cubs!)

I'm lousy at prayer. My prayers are usually just long complaints to God about my pet peeves and unfulfilled selfish desires. I wish I could do better -- and on occasion, by God's grace I have -- but most of the time I feel like God ought to tee me up and whack me down the fairway -- or into the water bunker (would that be an allusion to baptism? Hmmm.).

When I see this tendency in my prayers -- when I make an effort to do better -- I frequently turn to the prayers of people who are better than me. Yes, I know, that's a long list. But it makes the research easier.

Anyway, here's one that I have bookmarked on my browser so that I can click to it when the world and my own selfishness threaten to keep me from sleeping. It's an ancient prayer called the Aidan Compline. You can see the prayer with a short history and instructions by clicking here. But, here are the words. See if these don't help you "pray over your head." They are particularly moving when used (as originally intended) in a group with various leaders (see the instructions for that).

* O Christ, Son of the living God,
may Your holy angels guard our sleep,
may they watch over us as we rest
and hover around our beds.

* Let them reveal to us in our dreams
visions of Your glorious truth,
O High Prince of the universe,
O High Priest of the mysteries.

* May no dreams disturb our rest
and no nightmares darken our dreams.
May no fears or worries delay
our willing, prompt repose.

* May the virtue of our daily work
hallow our nightly prayers.
May our sleep be deep and soft
so our work be fresh and hard.

I will lie down and sleep in peace
for You alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.

My dear ones, O God, bless Thou and keep,
in every place where they are.

* Into Your hands I commit my spirit;
I give it to You with all the love of my heart.

* How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake, I am still with You.

I make the cross of Christ upon my breast,
+ over the tablet of my hard heart,
and I beseech the Living God of the universe -
may the Light of Lights come
to my dark heart from Thy place;
may the Spirit's wisdom come to my heart's tablet
from my Saviour.

* Christ without sin, Christ of wounds,
I am placing my soul and my body
under Thy guarding this night,
Christ of the poor, Christ of tears.
Thy cross be my shielding this night,
O Thou Son of tears, of the wounds, of the piercing.

I am going now into the sleep:
O be it in Thy dear arm's keep,
O God of grace, that I shall awake.

* My Christ! my Christ!
my shield, my encircler,
each day, each night,
each light, each dark.

* My Christ! my Christ!
my shield, my encircler,
each day, each night,
each light, each dark.
Be near me, uphold me,
my treasure, my triumph.

Circle me, Lord,
keep protection near
and danger afar.

* Circle me, Lord,
keep light near
and darkness afar.

* Circle me, Lord,
keep peace within;
keep evil out.

The peace of all peace
be mine this night
+ in the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.


Terry and Darci said...

So I prayed this prayer for the first time this weekend at the Midwest emergent conference in Chicago this weekend...let's just say it was amazing. Got to hang out with Doug Pagitt and Nanette Sawyer, heard from Tony Jones, Doug, Nanette, Spencer Burke (Oh my word, he was amazing!!!), Denise Van Eck, and many others. Gosh I was wishing you could have been there. It was held at the Cardinal Drive COC in Rolling Meadows, IL. I couldn't believe they would allow it, but it was pretty amazing.

chip said...

Thanks, Terry -- wish I could have been. I'm in colorado on vacation right now. Maybe you met Kevin Bowman, and old student of mine who is active in the chicago area and in the emergent movement. email me if you see this -- I just tried to email you, but couldn't get your address from your blog.